The Labrador Retriever, despite his name, did not come from Labrador, but from Newfoundland. The area was populated with small water dogs, who, when bred with Newfoundlands, produced a breed referred to as the St. John’s Water Dog, a prototype for the Lab of today. Early in the 19th century, the Earl of Malmesbury reputedly saw one of the dogs of this type and had it imported; in 1830, the noted British sportsman Colonel Hawker referred to the Lab as “the best for any kind of shooting…generally black and no bigger than a Pointer, very fine in legs, with short, smooth hair…is extremely quick running, swimming, and fighting…and their sense of smell is hardly to be credited.”
Initially, the dogs were not known as Labradors until the Duke of Malmesbury admitted that he “always called [his] Labrador dogs.” However, the breed eventually died out in Newfoundland due to a heavy dog tax and quarantine law. Many Labs were interbred with other types of retrievers, but luckily, the breed prevailed and fanciers drew up a definitive standard. Accurate pedigrees of today’s Labs go back as far as 1878. The Lab was recognized as a distinct breed by the English Kennel Club in 1903. The first registration of Labradors by the AKC was in 1917, and from the 1920s through the ’30s, there was a great influx of British dogs that formed the backbone of the breed in this country.
THE Dilute COLOR EXPLAINED
Labrador Retrievers that express the dilution gene (dd) are recognized and registered by the American Kennel Club (AKC) based on their foundation genetic colors, Black, Yellow, or Chocolate.
– Labradors that are descriptively called “Silver” are registered as their base genetic color Chocolate.
– Labradors that are descriptively called “Charcoal” are registered as their base genetic color Black.
– Labradors that are descriptively called “Champagne” are registered as their base genetic color Yellow.
The policy of registering light shades of the breed standard-described colors was established after a joint investigation by the AKC and Labrador Retriever Club of America (LRC) in the 1980’s, wherein breed purity of “Silver” Labradors was also confirmed.”
The use of descriptive color names is not new to the Labrador breed. Most common is the use of “White” for genetically Yellow Labradors that lack most of their pigment in the hair. The old breed studbooks contain many other descriptive iterations of the accepted colors:
Jet=Black, Slate=Black, Champagne=Yellow Cream=Yellow, Butterscotch=Yellow, Liver=Chocolate, Brown=Chocolate, etc…
General Appearance and Standard
The Labrador Retriever is a strongly built, medium-sized, short-coupled, dog possessing a sound, athletic, well-balanced conformation that enables it to function as a retrieving gun dog; the substance and soundness to hunt waterfowl or upland game for long hours under difficult conditions; the character and quality to win in the show ring; and the temperament to be a family companion. Physical features and mental characteristics should denote a dog bred to perform as an efficient Retriever of game with a stable temperament suitable for a variety of pursuits beyond the hunting environment.
The most distinguishing characteristics of the Labrador Retriever are its short, dense, weather resistant coat; an “otter” tail; a clean-cut head with broad back skull and moderate stop; powerful jaws; and its “kind,” friendly eyes, expressing character, intelligence and good temperament.
Above all, a Labrador Retriever must be well balanced, enabling it to move in the show ring or work in the field with little or no effort. The typical Labrador possesses style and quality without over refinement, and substance without lumber or cloddiness. The Labrador is bred primarily as a working gun dog; structure and soundness are of great importance.
Size–The height at the withers for a dog is 22½ to 24½ inches; for a bitch is 21½ to 23½ inches. Any variance greater than ½ inch above or below these heights is a disqualification. Approximate weight of dogs and bitches in working condition: dogs 65 to 80 pounds; bitches 55 to 70 pounds.